33.5 Border Treaties
The army marched to Tabuk. On arrival there, Mohamed learnt that the Romans, hearing of his approach, had retreated into their own territory. Mohamed, who had never fought for the sake of winning a battle, saw no reason why he should follow them and thought this to be a good opportunity to come to an understanding with the border princes. He summoned the princes who formed buffer states between him and the Romans and spoke to them of Islam, and then he undertook to give them protection on sea and land in exchange for the defense tax that non-Muslims had to pay and the alms tax that Muslims had to pay. Here is the text of one of these agreements written to Yuhanna ibn Ruba:
"In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Compassionate.
This is security from Allah and Mohamed, the Prophet, the Messenger of Allah to Yuhanna ibn Ruba and the people of Iliya. Their ships and conveyances upon sea and land are under the protection of Allah and Mohamed, the Prophet, and those with them of the people of Al-Sham or Yemen or the people of the sea. Any of them who meets disaster shall not try to retrieve his money, but shall go to Mohamed to retrieve it for him from the people who took it. They are not to be forbidden any water they desire nor road they wish to follow upon sea or land."
To cement this treaty Mohamed gave Yuhanna a garment decorated with the luxurious embroidery of Yemen, as well as many other tokens of friendship, and it was agreed that Iliya should pay three hundred dinars a year.
After making these treaties to secure the borders of Arab lands, there was no need to fight anymore, but the prince of Duma, one of the border princes, was still to be feared. He might conspire with the Romans. Mohamed set out with the bulk of army, to return to Medina, but sent Khaled ibn Al-Walid to Duma at the head of five thousand horsemen.
Khaled and his men found the prince out hunting and took him captive, forcing the city to open its gates to them to ransom its prince. They took much booty and cattle and brought the prince of Duma to Mohamed at Medina. The Messenger spoke to him of Islam, and he became a Muslim and an ally of Mohamed.
Some of those who had gone out full of enthusiasm to fight the enemy were disappointed for they had not fought a single battle. Had they marched a thousand miles or more in the heat for nothing? They did not fully grasp the importance of the treaties Mohamed had made with the border princes whose lands acted as buffer states between him and the Romans. They felt that if they did not fight and defeat the enemy then they had accomplished nothing. Mohamed tried to avoid armed conflict as much as possible and spared himself no effort towards this aim. He wanted to win people over to Islam and not to fight them. He fought only when it was inevitable, when the tribes decided to come and fight him or threatened freedom of religion on Arab land. He had to demonstrate to them that their idols were fake gods which did not give them victory in war or security in peace. However the Arabs were disgruntled, all they could see was that they had spent twenty days at the border doing nothing while Mohamed talked to the border princes instead of fighting them. They did not realize that to make the mind understand can be a greater victory than to compel the body.
Then they returned to Medina to discover another aspect of the matter. They saw how those who had stayed behind in fear of the Romans and the heat regretted it. They had thought Mohamed and those who volunteered would surely perish, if not by killing heat then by Roman swords. Then they saw Mohamed and the Muslims returning safe and sound with treaties of friendship covering the northern border. The real battle had not been with the Romans but with themselves. It was a test of faith and courage and those who had gone out to meet the Romans had passed the test.